You've heard the famous saying that patience is a virtue, and that’s mostly true. There are often great rewards associated with sticking with something (or someone) through hard times. In fantasy football, it’s also important to demonstrate patience while you give your players a chance to show what they can do for your team.
In September and October, that is. But with roughly a month left of regular-season fantasy games, patience is a vice. If you need wins and need them now, you have to ditch the good advice that no longer fits the circumstances.
For some managers, they’ll have to win three of their remaining games, or perhaps win out, in order to make the playoffs. And some of those managers have given up. Not technically, of course. They still set lineups and hope for some wins. But they’re basically on autopilot. They put in the same guys who have contributed to their losses, and they’re hoping that things somehow turn around in the last few weeks to validate where they were taken. They want to win, but they’re not doing anything to help the team actually win. They’re just letting the designated starters start, and hope for the best.
They’ve given up, but on the wrong things. You can’t give up on your team. It’s yours, and you waited a long offseason to play. It’s time to let go of the notion that your “starters” always deserve to start. Forget the rankings, the experts, the message boards, the radio shows, the podcasts and everything else. They're good tools, but they can't make decisions for you. You need points, and you need them now. And if you truly think a backup has a better shot at producing them, put them in the lineup.
Sounds like common sense, right? Not really. Earlier in the season, it’s silly. You really should give your best players time to gel with their new teammates, or their new coordinators, or their new role in the offense. Some players start slow. If you bench them too soon, you risk sabotaging your own strategy, and seeing it finally pay off on your bench. But now, with little or no room for error? Nope. Play the guys you think will do better, no matter who it is.
I’m not saying you should bench Mahomes for Josh Dobbs. But I’m not saying you should never do it, either. The Ravens seem to have an endless supply of running backs (the Buccaneers and Vikings are probably jealous), and they’re emphasizing the run more often, asking Lamar Jackson to do a little less. Should he still be starting for you? Maybe. Is he an automatic starter? Absolutely not. When you really need wins, nobody is an automatic starter. That’s the philosophy you need to adopt at the end of the season.
James Cook managers almost got demolished when he fumbled on the team’s first play and was benched for a good part of the half. He rallied (and fumbled again) but he nearly sunk a few teams on Monday night. He was drafted as a starter, but is he still one? Possibly. But it’s time (if you haven’t already) to look at your bench and see if someone else can provide more reliable production.
Now, let’s be clear: This strategy can backfire. You might bench a guy right as he goes on a hot streak, costing you the very wins you really needed. If your only goal is to minimize risk and criticism, start the expected guys, cross your fingers, and call it a season. That’s the easy route. But if you want to actually manage your team, put everyone on the hot seat. Analyze every player based on their situation and production (not their name or where you drafted them) and put the very best options into your starting lineup. Maybe most of them still make the cut, but you’ll probably need to give up on some guys. You’ll need to give up on the notion that anybody deserves an automatic entry into your lineup. You’ll need to take some chances. And they might not all pay off.
But here’s the thing: Win or lose, you ran your team. You did your job. And no matter what happens, you won’t get run out of town like Josh McDaniels. You also won’t get a $77 million playout like Jimbo Fisher got, unfortunately. What you will get is a guaranteed contract renewal for 2024 and beyond. You’ll never get fired, so don’t play scared. Don’t be irrational with your lineup, but don’t be afraid to give up on guys who aren’t getting it done, either. Whatever you decide, good luck this week.
Are you giving up on a starter for the stretch run? Have you benched an expected starter, and what were the results? Is there anybody you’d never bench, no matter the circumstances? Share your thoughts below.